Nigeria: 2,500 displaced in Plateau State violence, says Red Cross

from IRIN
Published on 04 Mar 2004
LAGOS, 4 March (IRIN) - At least 2,500 people have fled Plateau State in central Nigeria following a fortnight of violence between Muslims and Christians that has left 62 dead and more injured, the Red Cross said on Thursday.
Patrick Bawa, a spokesman for the Red Cross in Nigeria, told IRIN that his organisation had registered 2,500 displaced people in neighbouring Bauchi State by Wednesday afternoon and more were still arriving.

"We had 2,500 in five camps spread around Bauchi in the afternoon, but more people arrived last night that are not yet included in our figures," Bawa said.

Around 100 of the arrivals were injured and in need of treatment. The Red Cross provided first aid, and 16 people with severe injuries were sent to hospital, he added.

While troops and policemen have restored calm in most of the affected areas, people were continuing to flee the districts "because they're not too sure of their security," Bawa said.

Police said the latest outbreak of religious clashes in the Shendam and Langtang districts of Plateau State had claimed at least 62 lives over the past two weeks.

The victims include 48 people who were killed last week during a Muslim raid on the town of Yelwa on 24 February. Most were killed as they sought refuge in a church compound.

The bloodletting appeared to be in reprisal for a Christian attack on a nearby Muslim village in which 10 people were killed.

Four policemen have so far died in the fighting which has involved automatic rifles as well as bows and arrows.

Plateau State Police Commissioner Innocent Ilozuoke said on Thursday that security agencies had uncovered a plot by unnamed groups to unleash fresh violence around the town of Yelwa. He warned the police would "deal decisively" with such people if they went ahead with the plot.

The Red Cross said it had provided drugs and dressings to hospitals in Bauchi State to improve medical treatment for the displaced. The organisation said it was also distributing food, tents, blankets and buckets in the makeshift camps of displaced people.

However, the Red Cross said it required further assistance to meet the needs of the displaced people, some of whom had sought refuge in schools and other public buildings.

Muslims and Christians had coexisted peacefully in these rural communities for decades, but that all changed in 2001 when a complex mixture of religious issues, arguments over land tenure and politics lead to a spate of tit-for-tat killings and communal attacks.

During one week in September that year more than 1,000 people were killed in religious violence that gripped the state capital Jos.

However, ethnic and religious violence is not restricted to Plateau State.

Tens of thousands of people have died in ethnic and religious clashes across Nigeria since President Olusegun Obasanjo came to power in elections in 1999.

Squabbles over the distribution of oil revenue in the Niger Delta have frequently led to fatal ethnic clashes. In the north of Nigeria, the decision by 12 largely Muslim states to adopt strict Islamic Sharia Law has led to several large-scale confrontations between Muslims and Christians.


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